Stuck in Neutral

After so many gloomy rainy days, the warm sun beckoned. I ventured outside as eager as a chick bursting through an eggshell, glorying in a sky scrubbed clean of clouds. But enjoyment of the day wasn’t the only thing on my mind. Something bothered me.

Bright-Blue-Sky (1)

I didn’t take this picture, but it provides an idea of what I mean.

I’m not sure why, but a cricket chirping in the bike shed of my apartment building caused me to glance down at the T-shirt I wore—this T-shirt:


And I thought, That’s it. That’s what’s bothering me. I don’t mean the image per se. I’m quite partial to it, actually. No, the idea of movement itself—or the seeming lack thereof in my life—is what bothers me.

Let’s see . . . I’ve sent out manuscript queries; I’ve applied for jobs; I’ve networked. Baby steps these seem—tiny bursts of movement like flickering fireflies.


But I made them, and now I’m waiting for something to happen, or at least some step I can take toward making something happen. For now, I feel stuck in neutral.


Everybody waits for something. Is there something for which you wait? Some of us don’t wait easily. We long too much for something to change—a change for the good.

27712A scene I recently read really resonated with me. It comes from The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. Without giving away the plot (It’s complicated), I can tell you that the main character, Bastian Balthazar Bux, comes across an unusual house that can change its own rooms. Here’s a small portion of the scene.

After a short silence she said: ‘I think it would like us to move into the next room. I believe it may have arranged something for you.’

‘Who?’ Bastian asked, looking around.

‘The House of Change,’ said Dame Eyola, as if that were the most natural thing in the world.

And indeed a strange thing had happened. The living room had changed without Bastian noticing that anything was going on. (Ende 404)

Would you like to live in a house that could do this? I love this scene, not only for its coziness (I’m partial to scenes like this as well as the scene in Tom Bombadil’s house in Fellowship of the Ring), but because of the theme of change. The house did its best to delight Bastian by changing in such creative ways. I’m reminded also of another delightful book—Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George, where the castle changes its own rooms.

                   423092  10508431

I love any scene in which someone or something acts toward the good of someone and a delightful change is the result. And that’s key—something that delights. In a year in which bad changes have occurred, I can’t help longing for something good to happen.

Ende, Michael. The Neverending Story. Trans. By Ralph Manheim. New York: Firebird/Penguin, 1983. 404. First printed in Germany as Die Unendliche Geschichte by K. Thienemanns Verlag, 1979. Print.

Blue sky from Fireflies from Neutral gear from Book covers from Gooreads.

36 thoughts on “Stuck in Neutral

  1. The Never Ending Story. I remember going to see that at the cinema when I was a kid. And the theme song by Limahl. Ah..the eighties 🙂 Hope something delightful comes your way soon.

  2. I recently got shortlisted for a Bafta scriptwriting for children comp – whoopee! Don’t get excited, it came to nothing… anyway, they asked me to fill in questionnaire (just in case I won and they would have some facts to give to the media). One of the questions was ‘what do you find most difficult about writing?’ My answer was, ‘filling out stupid questionnaires like this one.’
    Perhaps that’s why I didn’t win in the end… but your post reminded of the thing I REALLY find difficult abut writing – sending your work out and waiting and waiting and waiting… for me, being in neutral is not an option. So I put it in gear and start writing the next story. Then I feel like I am, a writer who knows what they’re doing and loves the challenges creating a piece presents. Put it in gear L. Marie, unless of course, you’re freewheeling down a hill of success and don’t need to. 🙂

    • Oh, John!!! I’m sorry you didn’t win. At least you were shortlisted. But, that’s hardly a consolation prize, is it? I’m really sorry though. I’m hoping something great will happen for you!!!

      • Being shortlisted is something at least… but it’s the first and last comp I enter a script into! I spent one whole hour of my life filling in their entry form. One whole hour! That’s sixty minutes I could have spent writing!

      • I was trying to get a fellowship with my screenplay. Didn’t get anywhere. But I should have revised it more. That was years ago though.

    • I don’t think it’s wrong to hit the house if it takes liberties. For example, if it decides to pick your wardrobe for you or if it makes not-so-subtle hints through the rooms it suggests. In my case, if every room in the house turned into a gym and the house suggested that I need to lose weight.

  3. Ah…waiting. I know the feeling well. I always feel like if I’m waiting for something in one aspect of my life, all others must wait as well. Which is silly, but sometimes that’s the way my brain works. So I just force myself to forget about what I’m waiting for (easier said than done) and find something to distract myself with.

    • I know what you mean. Which is why I’ve crocheted two hats and countless flowers in between an editing project. I’m also grateful for bookcases full of good books. 🙂 But the problem of no chocolate in the house still remains. . . .

      • NO CHOCOLATE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! When I get truly desperate, I do spoonfuls of Hershey syrup. Any port in a storm, they say.

  4. “…glorying in a sky scrubbed clean of clouds.” What gorgeous prose you write, my friend. I understand the sense of being stuck in neutral, though in my case, it’s due to the realization that my son’s future is largely held in the hands of others, strangers who will not know the wonder of him if they choose to focus on ACT scores and grades. Thank you for this post.

    • Thanks, Laura! Sigh. I wish standardized tests would go the way of the dodo. It’s time schools realized that a student’s merit or success in a program isn’t solely based on a test score!!! Wishing the best for Zach!

    • So it’s that year? Good luck to him! I’ve been though the process twice with kids, but it was much more traumatic with the older one. When it was his younger sister’s turn, she had already decided to take a gap year and seemed to have things much more under control.

  5. Hello my dear Linda! Just coming out of hiding to say hello and to check in on you. Congratulations on all the things you have sent out and made movements towards – that is the toughest part! I am sure you will hear back soon and reap the benefits of being so organized and proactive. Neutral can be good sometimes. Think of your car being in neutral while going through a car wash. You are allowing it to get cleansed, scrubbed, shined and rinsed. A little hot wax might me good too. 🙂

  6. Not sure I can recommend my mode of change: flinging myself off a cliff without any sort of plan and hoping I don’t go SPLAT. It’s movement, but it isn’t the best for control or predictability. 🙂

  7. I agree with brickhousechick. Waiting is hard but trust in the fact that you’ve put a lot of things out there and something will come through. Maybe more than one thing at once and you’ll have an entirely different problem.

  8. You say: “I’m waiting for something to happen, or at least some step I can take toward making something happen.” You’re right. It’s not so bad waiting for something good to happen if you at least can think of an action to move things forward. I hope the sun comes out for you soon. Best wishes.

  9. The Neverending Story was one of my favorite movies as a child. I didn’t realize it was based on a book. I’ll need to pick that up for some nostalgia. I like the idea of the “delightful change” that you’ve illustrated here!

    • I recommend the book over the movie. It reminds me of a trip to Oz in many ways.

      Your son is a delightful change, Phillip. I hope you’ll post more pictures of him in hats. He looks good in hats.

      • I’ll have to find another fun pattern, especially now that Christmas is near. One of these days, I’m going to have to take a photo of all of the bags of yarn I have around my place. You would see why I’m desperate to make hats for people.

  10. Waiting has been a problem for me too. Feeling stuck is no fun. But I’m learning that those things that feel like obstacles can be opportunities–for rest we might have needed, or for something else. In any case, here’s to movement coming soon for you, L. Marie!

  11. I’m sorry the year hasn’t been very nice to you. 😦 Waiting for things to get better is even worse, I think. The anxiety can really get to you. (Well, it really gets to me, anyway.) You’re wise to take those baby steps toward making some of the change happen. So many people allow themselves to be stuck.

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